Renowned runner shares book at SAC

 

Last updated 3/12/2024 at 10:38am

Photo by Charlie Kanzig

A hundred people turned out to hear Lauren Fleshman talk about the well-being of athletes at Sisters Athletic Club.

Lauren Fleshman made her mark athletically as an elite runner, but her memoir may be her legacy. Fleshman's deep concern for the well-being of athletes, especially girls and women, is woven throughout her book, "Good for a Girl: A Woman Running in a Man's World."

In a book talk at Sisters Athletic Club (SAC) Wednesday, March 6, this theme remained her focus before an audience of around 100 guests.

"This was really our first social event since COVID and it was so great to see and feel the energy from the audience," said SAC owner Tate Metcalf. "We love hosting these events for the Sisters community and to return with such a gifted speaker was incredible."

As the owner and operator of an athletic club and as a former track coach, Fleshman's message resonated deeply with Metcalf.

"Lauren has such an important message to share. She was able to explain how, as a society, we have undercut female athletes by putting them into systems and coaching approaches designed by and for males. It was fantastic to see the room full of people interested in contributing to the change. I think it was particularly impactful for the young female athletes in the audience, along with those that want to support them."

One such athlete is Sisters High School senior Ella Bartlett, who has had a very successful running career for the Outlaws.

She said, "Lauren brought up some very valuable things that runners and coaches often overlook, such as the fact that women are not the same as guys. It was interesting how she talked about how puberty makes a women's athletic progression bumpy, and often women don't reach their full potential until they're in their 30s."

She continued, "What we need is more education on puberty and to give young girls the tools and education to equip them to care for their bodies and understand how to fuel themselves well and trust the process. Running is not always a linear path and while it might be easy to lose weight to get faster, what will be best for you in the long run is eating well and building a strong and healthy body."

Metcalf acted as the moderator for questions and answers with Fleshman, who eloquently expounded on a series of prompts.

Over the course of the evening Fleshman covered topics ranging from Title IX to Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports (RED-S) in a natural, down to earth, yet straightforward, style.

For women distance runners, the trajectory for success is much different than for males.

"Men tend to have a very linear progression from high school into adulthood as they grow and gain strength naturally," said Fleshman. "Girls face an entirely different experience as they go through puberty and adolescence, yet they are often coached exactly the same way as males."

And that can lead to a myriad of trouble for females striving to be the best they can be in a sport that celebrates "grit and sacrifice," according to Fleshman.

One such problem for elite runners is RED-S, which can also affect men.

In females, RED-S can be the unsurprising result of overtraining and under-nourishing. According to Fleshman, this can lead to a downward spiral of physical and psychological issues including fatigue, food preoccupation, disordered eating, lowered immune systems, and lost menstrual cycles in women, among other impacts.

Being an advocate for women is nothing new for Fleshman. During her time as a professional athlete she successfully pushed back on the way women were portrayed in advertising by her sponsor Nike. After retiring from running she coached for eight years in a program dubbed Little Wing Athletics, which was an all-women's team with a woman coach and women sponsors.

"As a coach I was able to put all the things I believed about how to develop female runners to the test," she said. The results speak for themselves as all seven of the athletes under Fleshman's tutelage qualified for the 2020 Olympic Track and Field Trials where they ran personal bests.

When asked what was next for her, Fleshman said that her current focus is on her two children, aged 10 and six.

After the talk, Fleshman stayed to meet people and sign copies of her book, available at Paulina Springs Books, which partnered with SAC for the event.

 

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